When I was a child, my mom always made sure to teach me to embrace to myself and all that I have. From my less than straight hair to my full lips, and the chocolate brown skin that I have, she made sure that I learned to love it all. Admittedly, there were times I felt less than beautiful when I saw the platinum blonde pop star on TV or opened up a magazine just to see a light skin black girl with green eyes staring back at me. However, even with these moments, there was never a time where I wanted to make myself look like these girls because I was so comfortable in my skin.
Enter the teenage years. There are tons of new experiences and emotions. The confidence that I had during my childhood years seemed almost to disappear. I was more self-conscious about the way I looked. My hair was too puffy. My nose was too big. My skin was too dark.
I remember the exact moment that I decided to invest in skin lightening products. There was a group of friends within my religious community that referred to themselves as "Team Yellow". What did this mean? Anyone who wasn't light skinned, or "yellow", couldn't hang out with them. I remember going online and spending the little babysitting money that I earned to buy soaps and creams with the promise of whiter and brighter skin. I remember applying these products everyday and scrubbing extra hard in the shower just hoping that my brown skin would fade.
My wake up call was when I was about 18. By then, I had stopped using the bleaching products; not because I was finally comfortable with myself, but only because I couldn't keep up financially with the expensive soaps and creams. When I started to feel truly beautiful was one day during the summer. I was sporting one of my usual ensembles, a tank top, and shorts. I remember looking at my skin and noticing how pretty it looked with the sunlight on it. I saw how soft and supple my skin looked and I loved how to light played off of my brown tone. I'm not exactly sure why on this day I took a look at myself and liked what I saw. Maybe it was the universe's way of telling me that I was beautiful the way I was.
My reason for telling my story first is to show that yes, this is something that I struggled with. I understand how it feels to wake up in the morning and feel less than beautiful. I know what it's like to see women of lighter complexions glorified and worshiped and those of darker complexions portrayed in a negative light not just by the media but by their peers of the same race. I know how it feels to like a guy but have him look you over because you're "too dark." But here's what I have to tell you: You are beautiful no matter what shade you are. Look at how your skin dances in the sunlight. Take care of your skin and you'll learn to love it.
Now, here's the real question. Why is skin bleaching so popular within the Black Community? The problem starts from within; and when I say "within," I mean within our community. As mentioned before I didn't begin to have issues with the shade of my skin until my peers started making it an issue; and what's even worse is that these weren't people from another race, they were Black as well. I've noticed that too many men and women of color discriminate against their own just off of what shade they are. I've come across black guys that don't want to date other black girls because they're "too dark". This kind of negativity within the community can discourage and damage.
Now we can't take all the blame. The media plays a significant role in the beauty standards for people of all races. While I must admit we are taking tremendous strides as a society in accepting those who are different, we still have a long way to go. Movies, ads, modeling agencies, and the music industry all demonstrate that the fairer you are, the more desirable you are to the general public. Again, while I agree that multiple media outlets are trying to defy the norm and represent dark skin men and women in a more favorable light than how they were previously portrayed, the rest lies with us.
I won't go into extensive detail on how skin bleaching products can damage your skin because honestly, all those facts are available to you on the internet. My intention is to address the root of the problem, which is the media as well as within our community. We should be empowering those within our community instead of making them feel any less valuable than they are. I cannot ask the media to change what they publish, but I can ask those of my community to make a change in how we treat one another.
Regardless of what skin shade we have, we should be confident and remember that beauty isn't skin deep; real beauty comes from the soul.
"You can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What does sustain us... what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul." - Lupita Nyong'o.
Blog by Eden Dixon